No. 11 Baseball Walks Off With 3-2 Victory

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Fieger’s sacrifice fly sends Hurricanes to 14th straight win.

Courtesy UM

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- No. 11 Miami extended the nation's longest winning streak in thrilling fashion Saturday night, toppling visiting Notre Dame 3-2 on a walk-off sacrifice fly from senior first baseman Brad Fieger.

Entering the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-1, the Hurricanes immediately put themselves in a position to tie the game when freshman Willie Abreu opened the inning by reaching second base on a fielding error. After John Lawroski entered the game for Abreu as a pinch runner, freshman Zack Collins belted a standup triple to deep right to even the game 2-2.

Speedy sophomore Ricky Eusebio then took the place of Collins at third, and scored the winning run on Fieger's flyout to right - sending his teammates and the crowd of 3,694 into frenzied celebration.

"I knew the speed of Ricky on third base, so I knew I just had to get the good part of the bat on it," Fieger said. "I was looking to drive something into the outfield - there are a lot of ways to score from there. It just happened to be deep enough."

Miami hadn't been able to generate much offense off Notre Dame starter Sean Fitzgerald (3-3) up until the final inning, but tagged the righthander for two runs when it mattered most. The Hurricanes improved to 9-1 in one-run games in 2014, and walked off for the second time in the past week.

"Just another one of those 'Wows!' at the end of the game when you come back and win it," head coach Jim Morris said. "Great ending - it was big."

In a pitcher's duel at Mark Light Field, lefthander Chris Diaz matched Fitzgerald's dominant outing with another impressive performance of his own. Diaz scattered six hits across eight innings of work, striking out five batters on the night. The Florida City, Fla., native threw 108 pitches - the most in any of his 10 starts this season - and lowered his season ERA to 2.48.

Despite allowing two runs in the fifth, Diaz allowed just two hits over the next three innings to give Miami a chance to win it late.

"I battled the whole night," Diaz said. "I had one inning where unfortunately the guy hit a double off the bag, but after that I felt like I kept our team close."

It was the Hurricanes (27-12, 15-4 ACC) who struck first off Fitzgerald, taking an early 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Brandon Lopez - who delivered the first hit of the night for either team with a leadoff double - slid in safely on a sacrifice bunt from senior Alex Hernandez to give Miami runners on the corners.

With one out, senior Dale Carey appeared to have connected on a routine flyball for the second out of the inning. But Notre Dame rightfielder Ryan Bull lost sight of the ball in the stadium lights, as Lopez scored from third to give Miami a 1-0 advantage.

Fitzgerald did well to limit the damage, however, striking out Tyler Palmer and retiring Willie Abreu on a groundout to keep Miami's lead at just one run.

"Their pitcher tonight - hats off to him," Diaz said. "He outpitched me until that last inning. For him to go that long, that's something that we just have to tip our hats to."

Notre Dame struck for two runs off Diaz in the fifth, taking its first lead of the night on a two-RBI double from Kyle Fiala down the rightfield line. A bunt single from Mac Hudgins loaded the bases for the Fighting Irish (15-22, 3-16 ACC), and Fiala came through with a two-out basehit to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

After opening the scoring in the third, the Hurricanes offense struggled to muster much against Fitzgerald until the ninth. A two-out single from Johnny Ruiz in the fourth and a walk from freshman Derik Beauprez - making his first career start as an offensive player - represented Miami's only baserunners until the eighth, when Palmer was stranded after a single.

Sophomore Thomas Woodrey (2-0) entered in relief of Diaz in the ninth and retired the Fighting Irish in order.

The Hurricanes bats finally came through in the ninth, when Abreu opened the inning with a sharp grounder to Fiala at shortstop. But his throw made its way past Blaise Lezynski at first baseman, as Abreu hustled his way to second to give Miami a runner in scoring position with no outs. Collins belted a deep shot to rightfield that looked like it might have a chance to leave the park, but instead dropped for a triple between two Notre Dame outfielders.

"I would have called [Zack's] home run - this guy always does crazy stuff like that," Diaz said of Collins' clutch hit. "For him to step up and do something like that is special."

Morris, along with the second-largest crowd of the season at Mark Light Field, also thought the ball would clear the fence.


"I thought it was going to go out, the way the wind was blowing," Morris said. "To his credit, Zack was busting. He could have thought it was going out, and he would not have been on third base...he was running hard and anticipating it was not going out. It's a credit to him to get to third base on that ball."

With Eusebio in the game as a pinch runner, Fieger's flyball to right finished off Miami's 14th straight win - matching its longest streak since 2008.

"It was important for us - we obviously want to win every game," Fieger said. "We're playing really well right now. We have the confidence that we're going to win every game we're playing in, even if we're down by one going into the ninth."

No. 11 Miami returns to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field Sunday night for game two of its series with Notre Dame. First pitch for the matchup, slated for broadcast on ESPN3, is set for 7 p.m.

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